Aspiring rapper Marcus (50 Cent) is being driven to a robbery with his associates, knowing he has been put into this difficult position by his rival, the gang boss Majestic (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje). They manage to break into the office using subterfuge and grab all the cash they can, but Marcus's friend and manager Bama (Terrence Howard) starts acting strangely and demanding more money while he tells him to calm down. Suddenly two gun-wielding employees appear and the bullets start flying, but Marcus does get away with the profits and later, when he's going to his car, a mystery man appears and shoots him...
Thus our story begins, and this introduction instigates a great big flashback to Marcus's life which we were led to believe was closely based on the life of the star, 50 Cent. In the same way that his colleague Eminem had enjoyed some acclaim in his 8 Mile, the erstwhile Curtis Jackson was introduced to cinema audiences in this, but with far less impressive results. Indeed, the film became something of a joke as to how awful it was and the formidable lack of charisma Mr Cent displayed, but really it wasn't as bad as all that, it's simply that after the initial hilarity wore off what was left was an incredibly boring run through of a life that would have been better rapped about than filmed.
It's always a bad sign when the kid playing the star as a boy is a better actor than he is, and so it is with Get Rich or Die Tryin' which launches into the hip-hop equivalent of Angela's Ashes as a sob story plays out before our eyes, with Marcus the son of a single mother and drug-dealing prostitute who is killed after an altercation in the street about Rick James taking her spot for selling her wares. Now, if this had been about 50 Cent tracking down a murderous Rick James in the spirit of obsessive vengeance, there we would have a film worth our time, but as it is alas it was only a James looky-likey who might have committed the crime.
The actual killer is well telegraphed, in fact there's only one character it could really be, so in the interim you are left sitting about waiting for something interesting to happen. Perhaps it was the curious choice of director that sabotaged the thrill elements, as Jim Sheridan, he of My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father fame, was not the obvious candidate for making a hip hop biography and displays little feel for the drama. But more likely it was the star himself at fault, who drones his way through his lines with all the emotion of one of his posed album cover photos: what he should have done was not take the Eminem "This is Your Life" road and instead gone for the more action-oriented crime thriller.
Instead of what we get which is essentially a vanity project. The irony is that one of the stars, Terrence Howard, had starred in a perfectly decent rap biopic, only one which was wholly fictional: Hustle & Flow, which was released the same year as this. If that proved it was possible to make something watchable out of this kind of subject matter, then Get Rich or Die Tryin' appeared to be doing its darnedest to demonstrate the opposite, with every scene in the same style whether Marcus is getting his first gun, his first bullet wound or his first child, it's all put across with that monotony. As Marcus makes his way up the ranks from dealer on the corner through a spell in prison to the rap superstar status it comes as no surprise that he achieves, you wish for some note of humour, some self-awareness, that might have made this a better prospect for entertainment, but it never arrives; it's just deathly dull.